Q&A: Is it better to upskill vs. replace my people?

Reena Chawla, Product Leader at EdCast
Dec 14, 2021

42% of the core skills needed to perform most jobs are expected to change by 2022. Rather than recruiting new employees for these shifting roles, is it possible to up-skill the people you have? Reena Chawla, a product leader at EdCast, explains how to build your business by upskilling employees, and how technology can lift […]

42% of the core skills needed to perform most jobs are expected to change by 2022. Rather than recruiting new employees for these shifting roles, is it possible to up-skill the people you have?

Reena Chawla, a product leader at EdCast, explains how to build your business by upskilling employees, and how technology can lift this burden from entrepreneurs.

After you listen:

Ask a SMB Workplace Question and get featured on POPS! The People Ops podcast.

On this episode, you’ll hear: 

  • [02:20 – 06:00] How small businesses are adjusting to pandemic-induced pivots
  • [07:00 – 10:45] Why core job skills are shifting rapidly
  • [11:30 – 13:50] Reasons to provide upskilling as a benefit
  • [14:00 – 16:30] Steps to create a scalable education strategy

POPS Star Bio

Reena is an accomplished entrepreneurial executive with 20 years of progressive leadership delivering innovative data-driven products and services to solve key customer and business problems. She intimately understands the SMB universe and excels at rapidly building strategies for hypergrowth and scale, allowing her to invigorate and launch Product Strategy/Design, Product Marketing, and Product Adoption with measurable successful results

As a bridge between customers, data scientists, leadership, technology, marketing and sales, Reena endeavors to provide direction even through ambiguity. She is adept at creating and driving the pathway through product refinement based on unique customer needs, and employs analytical and quantitative analysis focused on marketing, pricing, and customer acquisition strategies to drive product adoption and bottom-line success.


Didi: Instead of recruiting new people for new roles. Can I up-skill the people I have

welcome to POPS! the people ops podcast from Zenefits, the only show dedicated to small business sharing stories, pivotal people, lonely. I’m your host, Didi D’Errico.

Today’s guest is Reena Chawla, a business strategist, futurist, and a product leader at EdCast, where she is 100% focused on small and mid-size business. She joins me to share some insight on how small businesses can keep their people and build their organizations by teaching them new skills to meet the new roles.

The company will be. Before we dig in a little bit here, Rena, let’s get to know you. Can you give us the speed dating version of your role at EdCast and why it is you do what you do 

Rena: most certainly I do have a background in building businesses from scratch, expanding them, scaling them and exiting successfully.

So when I wanted to reenter the workforce, I’m batting for like forward SMBs in whatever capacity I could was, uh, And ed cast leading the product’s spark, which is an learning experience platform, primarily designed for the SMV market was the perfect choice and appropriate option for me. And I’m grateful for that in this capacity.

I lead organizations from 10 to 1000 users in their upskilling goals so that they can cater to the tech talent. So that they can read, take care of upskilling for them so that they can focus on what matters to them. The most we’re just growing their revenues and growing their, this. 

Didi: And obviously for the small businesses in particular, in the last year and a half, keeping your business with one for the first six months of the pandemic.

And then as we roll out a little bit further and really look at, try to rebuilding business, there’s all kinds of new challenges as people really rethink how they’re prioritizing their lives, where they want to spend their time. I read something and an Ariana Huffington post to last week. People starting to want to build work into the cracks of their living versus build living into the crux of their work.

So with that, as a context, maybe share a story to kick us off. Think about in the last 18 months, something that stands out for you in terms of a small business in particular, trying to think differently about moving their business forward by upskilling their teams as many, you know, I’ve seen many companies.

They’ve changed their business entirely in order to survive. And now they’ve got new roles in their organizations that they’re trying to figure out how to fill that. They kind fill them with the people that I already know and trust, but don’t necessarily know exactly how to do this or something else.

So maybe if you could give us an example for people to be thinking about as we go through the rest of the conversation, that would be great. 

Rena: Since I’ve been here at ed cast, leading spar, uh, interesting trends have emerged, you know, particularly because of the pandemic. No one does survivor survival ship better than an entrepreneur.

We first took the shock ads. All did you know, we wanted to see how do we go around the spin bowl that the, that the world has thrown at us and survive and thrive. So definitely in my experience, for example, your good teachers, health factors, nursing. Um, moved away from a brick and mortar store and they have started offering classes online.

You need zoom, zooming, they need out. And that has created a phone kinds of problems, but that’s a different, that’s a different topic. So, uh, delivery of business has shifted from the traditional methods, which was in-person are in brick and mortar at cafes. doing business online, which means our small businesses have suddenly felt the expense that was not previously available to them.

And that this is where super local that means businesses can and have opted to hire farther offer their services. Father. Have a more geographically dispersed team because office is not an indication and sources of revenue had expanded right alongside that. For example, I have small businesses that I’m working with are recently onboarded for full compliance.

Is it key? Um, Uh, they want to make sure that the in order in the line of doing their business, all the team members are trained in compliance training, because they are looking into how to make sure all members of their team are on the same page when it comes to running their business efficiently. When I give demos or talk to these small business owners, we’re looking for ways to streamline upskilling in continued education.

And they get this Netflix style app where they can quote unquote bench, learn any place anywhere. Anytime they see the value, the return on investment in a platform like this is huge. They don’t have to set aside major dollars, but the upside of upscaling and retaining employees. 

Didi: So we’ve laid the groundwork here to talk about the market in the last 18 months, both for regular job changes where you feel like you need to update some of the skills that you already have foundation around, but also for places where there’s these huge job gaps we’ve talked and seen a ton about 8 million people have left the workforce in the last, in the last six months in the U S alone.

And that there are these jobs that are left wanting, cause people, some people don’t want to do the restaurant jobs, for example, they did before. But also there’s all kinds of new roles that are, that are coming up and for a small business that might not actually be terribly skilled in a role that you need for the new take of where your businesses.

How did that happen? 18 months ago, in your experience of working with small businesses, did they try to figure it out themselves? Do they try to hire external resources to come in and train? Do they just try to hire somebody new altogether with, and skip over the existing team that they had? Can you talk a little bit about what that looked like a couple of years 

Rena: ago?

So for example, in the last 18 months in particular, the tech workforce has implemented new technology at a very rapid. Which means, regardless of whatever industry we may be in, but the Risa says at 42% of the core skills needed to perform those jobs are expected to change by 2022. We’re sitting in the last quarter of 2021 and in small businesses, in my experience, I’ve been speaking with, have re uh, have been recognizing that they need to.

Upskill their current existing workforce in order to match the jobs of the future or a higher entirely. And as we all know that the old lady dollar, you heard that determines what kind of decisions that small businesses will be making, which will be fruitful for them, of those who were interviewed budget 3%, uh, say that half when all of their workforce will need to change their skills and capabilities again.

42% of the jobs of the future are likely to look very different from what we, as of today, 

Didi: 42% of the jobs of the near future, that scary that 20, 22 number you threw out there. It 

Rena: sure is. It showed us, uh, what, what, you know, in challenge lies opportunity, which also means that employees themselves recognize that they had to take charge of upskilling them sense to stay relevant.

Also employers, uh, saying it’s, it’s not enough just to go out and fire people. We have people who match whom we have invested in a retention and attrition. I’ve always been, you know, kind of the forces that have always been at play regardless of the size of the organization. But the focus on upskilling is like a never before situation.

So in both employees and employers, In sort of a partnership at this time in recognizing that something needs to change and they both have to kick the spontaneity, the points for themselves and employers for their info, their team members, in order for them to stay relevant, the job market. And in order for the small business to continue to play on strengths, rather than no news, people are on news business on account of not having enough scaling.

Yeah. So let’s talk 

Didi: a little bit about, you gave me some really interesting statistics. I’m, you know, I was thinking. Certainly the G those shortage in people for jobs today is fairly broad. I’m sure there are vertical markets that are hurting more than others are, but it sounds like when you’re talking about beyond that, that 42% of change in jobs in the next year, it kind of hits everybody, but are there particular vertical markets that are really chronically turnover related anyway, but that really need to sit up and pay attention to this upskilling opportunity, which.

I think I would define and tell me if I’m wrong that it’s taking staff, you already had that know your systems, your company, know your customers and given them the opportunity to learn something, either deeper in the area they’re in or try and kind of a new role altogether with that’ll be a value to you and 

Rena: to the.

You said it absolutely correctly duty for sure. We try as an SMB, um, as entrepreneurs, we try and do the, the most we can with the staff that we have, right. It costs more to replace a and hire someone new. It’s about like, I think three months of salary, when someone leaves a new hire someone else, we would rather entrepreneurs.

We would rather give expanded portfolio of responsibility. To people who are within the ecosystem of my organization. And that’s why this investment in a case where it says over time in bays that hiring new talent may not want to talk about up-skilling. As far as the enterprise side of at cast does reach out to industry word at spark with SMBs I’m really industry agnostic.

I have not seen a trend in most. What do you go is seeking more of the upskilling bandwagon. We got on the bandwagon and have seen businesses across the board United. Leighton’s telling you, I have customers who are in the middle east people who are in South Africa, who are in Singapore universities and their alumni.

They’re reaching out and they want to play in that, in this whole domain of upscaling, their employees. 

Didi: And what would you say as companies are trying to step back and say, wow, how do I keep the people I have? How do I take care of them with different benefits? You know, a lot of people are looking at, at health care, maybe for the first time offering it or 401k programs or things that make it a more competitive place to work and to keep people.

How, how big of a difference is, uh, training and upskilling and how differently do you see SMBs responding or asking about it then maybe you did two years ago. 

Rena: I think that’s a very good segue into me sharing the phrase education as a benefit or up-skilling as a benefit. Absolutely. It’s compelling. It shows you care.

It shows you once your. As all human beings, we all want to grow. You know, unfortunately we report in their wrist sizes to our brain center when our talents to, to grow so that we can play in newer areas. They’re all seeking new newness and, and road, uh, and nothing better than up-skilling your employees and saying that I am reposing faith in you as my team member.

And here’s why I’m investing dollars. And our money into you by providing you this education upscaling as a benefit in the talent wars. There, we all know that historically that the bigger enterprises draw sizable pool of talent, upskilling as a benefit allows the small to midsize businesses play like the big voice and retain.

Didi: So let’s, uh, let’s talk about to the listeners, what they can take away from this for people who’ve been listening today and really thinking about what team they have today, what team they’re going to need tomorrow. Can you give a couple of quick tips of how to think about training as a benefit for next year?

Rena: Yes, then for baker, she started out a cupcake shop in the neighborhood and grew it to 25 people. This. Part-time full-time 25 staff running a sizable business, bringing in the revenue. She has a secret sauce. No. What can she and the team plan for next year. So maybe you were looking to expand to next year.

What is your tests? Acknowledge your tacit knowledge is how you’re doing business. What achievement, what kind of size and scale of team that you need, who are your vendors thinking about? What kind of inflow, outflow of cashflow that you need in order to generate a fate attachment to. Property. So now you’re this your tacit knowledge picture in Q2 of next year, you’re looking to expansion location.

What would you do? Would you hire new staff from ground up or you can look at your current team member was grown with you was help you grow business and give them responsibility so that they can take over. They can look to grow in your business to the next level of responsibility. And help create that new location for you.

So you don’t have to do the work right from the very scratch that is intrinsic knowledge. How can technology help? You can come in into a platform like spar, if you can create that, that knowledge and record the information that you would like to disseminate so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel over and over again.

Now you can also use this technology for forecasting. You can, as a proper business that is looking to scale, or you’re not a one, one shop anymore. To shops. And if you can scale, it has a multiplier effect without having to do everything from scratch, as you need it to your phone for your location. Number one.

So you can, um, create tacit knowledge, share that tacit knowledge with your growing team. You can look at your stance and who’s been loyal to you to grow them through the ranks so that they feel good. Retaining talent. You can facilitate the training in the leadership or management or manager roles. And our platform has plenty of leadership training that you can, uh, access from its own sources to tensive knowledge, external sources of content and third and last, but not the least is expansion and growing your business.

In addition many times we’ll to see that people bring in external speakers, for example, to create content. You don’t have to bring them in every single time. You’re going to repeat the same content and reuse it.

Didi: If you’d like to hear more unconventional thinking like Corrina’s on how to build up the people behind your small distance, subscribe, the pumps, the people ops podcast on apple, Google, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

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